Collecting miles can unlock some of the best trips of your life. Watching your miles join Greek currency in the "useless" category is as much fun as watching the love of your life on a date with someone else. When airline devaluations happen, you know, where they make you use more miles for the same old seat, that "rainy day" in the future can become doomsday for your miles. Don't get fooled again!
Most airlines see miles as liabilities. The more that are out there, the more can be used for non paid travel. When people learn to use miles in optimal ways towards long haul Business Class and First Class flights, alarm bells go off and airlines attempt to make getting this level of value increasingly hard. Here are a few ways to protect your miles and collect them in a thoughtful manner....
Have Goals in Mind:
Every mile I collect goes towards a goal. It may be a short term or a long term goal, but it has a place somewhere. Booking my honeymoon was a long term mileage goal, spanning two years of travel and selected credit card bonuses. Be as calculated as possible and start thinking of where you'd like to go and how many miles you need from day one. When your miles add up to that goal, pull the trigger!
Always Be Searching:
I very rarely find that the dates I am interested in work perfectly the first time I look. Don't give up. Availability comes and goes all the time! In searching for flights home from Buenos Aires to New York, I figured out that partner awards were only loaded up to three months in advance at the moment, making my trip eight months away impossible to book at the moment. Keep checking, they will load in sometime and the early bird will get the worm. If your ideal airports aren't working, but there are nearby alternates, check those, you never know!
Choose the Most Useful Miles to Earn:
As I mentioned, having goals is hugely important. You do not have to earn miles with the airline you are flying. Nearly every airline has at least 10 partners with whom you could be earning tier points, miles and elite status while flying on any airline within their alliance. If you are stuck flying British Airways, think about earning miles on someone else in the One World Alliance, who serves your destinations and offers the best value for the free flight awards you are seeking. If your main destination is to the middle east for example, why not earn miles on Qatar Airways for all your British Airways flights? To earn Qatar Airways miles while flying British Airways, simply create a free Qatar frequent flier account before your flight and enter that number when you book your British Airways ticket. This is just an example, the same applies for all airlines within each alliance..
Don't Use Miles If You Don't Need To:
There are opportunities to maximize miles everywhere and using huge chunks of miles for short distance, inexpensive tickets is certainly not one of them. You must weigh the value of the miles versus the value of your dollar/pound. You must always strive to get better than 1 cent per mile value (60,000 miles=$600). If you book a round trip ticket to New York in Business Class across the pond that ticket would cost at least $4,000 out of pocket yet only 80,000 miles giving you more like 3 or 4 cents per mile value.
If Possible, Collect Points over Miles:
I have both credit cards that earn points and cards that earn miles. If you have an airline credit card, you can only earn miles from your purchases toward the airline. If you have an American Express card for example, like that of the green, gold or platinum, you earn American Express Membership Rewards points. These points can be transferred instantly to over 12 different airlines, giving you increased safety (from devaluations like BA) and more flexibility for your travel. If you are one of the many that find their British Airways American Express card now rendered useless, see what other cards are out there that allow you to transfer points to multiple airlines.
Keeping this mindset will keep you ahead of the curve and first in line to cash in your miles in the most optimal ways. The whole point of collecting miles is to create wonderful travel experiences and in my opinion the more you put in, the more you will get out.
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